"Bird flu" kills in Iraq

Well, it's official. H5N1 has killed humans in Iraq. As usual, EffectMeasure has the scoop.

More like this

As usual, EffectMeasure is one step ahead of me. A news report came out yesterday suggesting that influenza may infect people through the gut. At least 4 routes of evidence suggest this possibility. 1) In birds, influenza is an intestinal infection. 2) Several cases of H5N1 have presented with…
In addition to all the science of H5N1, several presentations were given discussing communication between scientists and the public (or those who more often communicate with the public--science journalists). As I've written on here before, it's not an easy dance to figure out, for a variety of…
See, it's posts like this (and many of the comments that follow; hat tip to Mike) that make me worry about "bird flu." I'm more concerned about the inaccurate information and attacks on those who work in the field (and the effect this may have on public acceptance of real public health advice)…

It is my understadning that the 1918 flu (which was a H5N1)was particularly good at infecting young, healthy people with strong immune systems. I also heard that it was brought from Europe to North America and elsewhere by troops returning from World War 1. (my fathers family lost three to this flu in 1919) If so is the prescense of young, healthy US soldiers in a place where H5N1 is now found a potentially huge disaster in the making? I am no expert in epidemiology but I hope you can either reassure me that my fears are groundless (or else completely terrify me:)). Also would you know if it is possbile to increase the ability of H5N1 to pass from human to human or otherwise survive longer outside a host? In other words is there a known risk that the virus could be made more infectious and be spread amongst US troops?

By CanuckRob (not verified) on 31 Jan 2006 #permalink

The 1918 strain was H1N1--and yes, it seemed to kill more of the young and healthy than an influenza virus typically does. We've seen this with H5N1 as well--both viruses cause a "cytokine storm," essentially resulting in the patient drowning in their own fluid.

As far as this:

Also would you know if it is possbile to increase the ability of H5N1 to pass from human to human or otherwise survive longer outside a host? In other words is there a known risk that the virus could be made more infectious and be spread amongst US troops?

Paul Ewald has put forth an idea that the 1918 flu was so virulent because it was allowed to evolve in immobilized troops and didn't require healthy hosts to transmit it. If this holds (and there's lots of disagreements over Ewald's theories), then having it again around a combat situation could be a very bad thing.

Thanks for your response. I appreciate it.

By CanuckRob (not verified) on 02 Feb 2006 #permalink